Giovanna Lira was born in Brooklyn in the late 1800s. Her mother, a Russian Jew, and her father, an Italian, met shortly after they immigrated at Castle Gardens. They settled in New York City, where they worked a number of small jobs until they were able to open a tiny dry-goods store. It is believed that it was here that a young Giovanna became acquainted with ginger, which the family sold raw, made into candy and fused into ginger wine.
The birth of the 1900s witnessed the assassination of President McKinley, the beginning of the Roosevelt era and the explosion of immigration into New York City. Because of this dramatic rise in immigration, many of these people were forced to work in numerous sweat shops that began to appear throughout the city.
It is thought that this explosive growth–in addition to a period of hardship and the exploitation of immigrants–drove the social and complex Giovanna out West. It is unknown what she did from 1904 to 1909, but it is believed that she followed the Santa Fe Railroad to Los Angeles, California. This was where she spent the rest of her days.
Giovanna married a saloon owner who was a distant cousin of the Van Nuys family. This family relationship afforded the saloon prime real estate in a thriving Los Angeles. It is no coincidence that the booming saloon became known for its Ginger Ale, Ginger Wine and numerous cocktails flavoured from Giovannaʼs own exotic ginger elixir.